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Castro: ‘tragic’ to use food to produce fuel

(original headline: “What Castro and Chavez spoke about”)
Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez via BBC

BBC: The following is the transcript of the conversation between Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It has been edited for brevity.

…Chavez: Do you know how many hectares of corn are needed to produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: To do what?

Chavez: To produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: Ethanol. I believe you told me about that the other day. Somewhere around 20 million hectares.

Chavez:[Laughing] Just like that.

Castro: Go ahead, remind me.

Chavez: Indeed, 20 million. You are the one with an exceptional mind, not me.

Castro: Twenty million. Well, of course. The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today.

I am happy to know that you have taken up the flag to save the species because… there are new problems, very difficult problems and therefore to see someone become a great preacher of the cause, a champion of the cause, an advocate of the life of the species. For that, I congratulate you. Continue fighting [words inaudible] to educate the people so they can understand.

There are things that I read and review every day. I am very aware of the threat of war, environmental threats and food threats. We have to remember that there are billions of people famished. These are realities, and for the first time in history, the governments are getting involved. Governments that are able and have the moral authority to do it, and you are one of those rare examples…
(2X Feb 2007)
Hat tip to emersonbiggins at peakoil-dot-com.

This conversation appears to have taken place on Hugo Chavez’s weekly call-up radio program,¨Hello President.¨

Zambia: Bio-Fuel – Experts Call for Caution

Joseph Banda, The Times of Zambia
ZAMBIA spends in excess of US$500 million a year on the importation of crude oil to meet its national demand for fuel needed in running vehicles and industries.

…[Energy and Water Development Minister Felix Mutati] has undertaken several tours of commercial farms where he has gone to learn how much Jatropha is being grown and to also find out more knowledge on the plant, which is important to the production of bio-fuel.

It is envisaged that although bio-fuel cannot completely replace fossil fuels, it can help the Government reduce costs on crude importation if significant quantities are produced within the country.

However, the latest minister’s tour of Sherrif Estates in Serenje and Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART) on the Great North road in Lusaka reveals that the country needs to be conscious on its path to embrace bio-fuel as a supplement to fossil fuel.

…At GART, experts also reminded Mr Mutati that there was need for the Government to fully understand Jatropha and its effects when grown on a large scale.

Head of research and development, Douglas Moono, said experts had keenly followed the excitement on Jatropha and production of bio-fuels, adding that there was need for adequate research on the plant.

Mr Moono said there was need for caution in the way the Government was trying to come up with the production of bio-fuels, especially effects on the environment and the disposal of remains needed to be taken care of.

He said there was also need to regulate the importation of Jatropha plants until research was done to find out their suitability to the Zambian situation
(27 Feb 2007)

Biofuels growth hit by soaring price of grain

Financial Times
High grain prices are threatening the nascent biofuels industry, raising input costs and making the fuel less economic compared with oil.

Agricultural commodity prices have reached long-term highs in recent days, based on forecasts of hot and dry weather conditions this year in the US which could result in lower grain yields. This comes after oil prices have fallen by a quarter from their record peaks last year.

Corn prices reached another 10-year high for the second successive day when it touched $4.31 a bushel, up five cents on the day. But the doubling of corn, a main feedstock for US ethanol producers, over the past year at a time when oil prices are at the same level they were 12 months ago has raised questions over the viability of the biofuels industry without heavy government support.
(22 Feb 2007)